OSAKA (Kyodo) Hankyu Holdings Inc. plans to retain the Hanshin brand after it acquires the Hanshin Electric Railway Co. stake owned by an investment fund led by financier Yoshiaki Murakami, sources involved in the deal said Wednesday.

The two Osaka-based railways are likely to integrate capital under a new holding company tentatively named Hankyu Hanshin Holdings, the sources said.

However, the holding firm would keep using the same names for the Hanshin Tigers baseball team and Hanshin railway.

Changing the name of the Hanshin Tigers is a taboo in Osaka, where the team has won fans’ loyalty for decades.

Meanwhile, the Hankyu brand, which ranges from uptown real estate business to a major department store chain based in Osaka, generally enjoys an upscale image.

The holding firm hopes to take advantage of retaining the Hankyu and Hanshin brand names separately in business areas where each has strong brand recognition, the sources said.

“We will seek ways to maintain equal partnerships. We are not going to absorb (Hanshin) under Hankyu Holdings,” one source involved in the deal said.

As to the purchase of Hanshin shares, Hankyu Holdings plans to tender an offer for them as soon as it strikes a deal with Murakami, sources said earlier.

Hankyu Holdings owns Hankyu Corp., which competes with Hanshin in the Kansai region centering on Osaka.

The Murakami Fund is Hanshin’s biggest shareholder, holding a 45.73 percent stake as of late February.

Fearing the Murakami Fund could exercise its dominant voting rights to take over the railway at a general shareholders’ meeting in June, Hanshin has been encouraging other firms to buy its shares from the fund.

But one stumbling block to the deal, which could result in the realignment of the Kansai railway industry, is the purchase price.

The fund is believed to be seeking more for the shares than the railway has offered.

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